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See a Baby Orangutan’s First Birthday Party

Zoo keepers had a birthday party for Asmara the baby orangutan and her “auntie” Melati this week.  Thirty years separate the two (Asmara turned 1 on Nov. 22 and Melati turned 31 on Nov. 19) but we think an orangutan is never too young or too old to be celebrated!

The party began when Asmara went into her exhibit with mom Tara.  They ignored the wrapped “gifts” that keepers had placed in the exhibit, instead opting to climb way up to the skylights.

When male orangutan Tengku joined the party, he swung skillfully to the back wall to taste the “Happy Birthday” message keepers had written in flour paste.  Next, he snatched up several gifts and began tearing them open to discover the treats that keepers had hidden inside.

What was Asmara’s favorite gift?  A nearly-empty jar of peanut butter.  The little one watched intently as Tara scraped out the tasty treat.  At one point, Asmara tried unsuccessfully to put her head in the jar!

Want to give baby Asmara the best birthday gift ever?  Adopt an orangutan at the zoo.  Your unrestricted gift will help us pay for Asmara’s food and care for one whole year!

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Animal babies are sponsored by Lutheran Children’s Hospital.

rooster fort wayne

Indiana Family Farm By The Numbers

The Indiana Family Farm is a must-see attraction at the zoo.  Guests can walk through a working barn and pet donkeys, sheep, pigs, and more!  Just outside the barn is the chicken coop where the rooster crows, and a few yards down the path is the goat yard – where our curious goats are always ready to make a new friend.

It takes many hardworking hands to care for all of our hoofed and feathered friends, and those hands stayed busy this summer!  Here’s a 2015 recap of the Indiana Family Farm by the numbers:

  • 9 zoo keepers
  • 12 species of animals
  • 29 goats
  • 48 individual animals in all
  • 680 bales of hay
  • 1,020 bags of wood shavings
  • 3,400 pounds of grain
  • 618,498 guests served during the 2015 season

All those numbers add up to one great experience for zoo guests.

Zoo keeper Laura Sievers contributed to this blog and had this to say about her work in the Indiana Family Farm, “Whether it’s the first place or the last place our guests visit, the Indiana Family Farm is a place for making memories.”

Click on the photos to enlarge.  (Not pictured:  The barn mouse.  He was hiding.)

zoo nature fort wayne

We Have a Kids4Nature 2015 Winner!

Sumatran Tiger – 93,378 votes – Winner!

Giraffe – 88,345 votes

Hellbender – 64,212 votes


How Kids4Nature Works

On every visit, guests received a recycled metal washer that represented 10 cents. Guests could then “vote” for their favorite project by dropping the washer in the wishing well.  Votes helped determine how much funding each project receives.

Additional votes could be made with real quarters, nickels, and dimes – 100% of any added contributions went toward the voted project. Total contributions were calculated from April – October.

Click on the photos to see this year’s Kids4Nature animals:

These three projects will share 50% of the zoo’s $80,000 conservation commitment in 2015, with the allocation proportional to the number of votes received.  The other 50% of Kids4Nature funds will be shared by our Conservation Partners.

The Sumatran tiger won the most votes (and a year’s worth of bragging rights for our own Indah and Bugara), but ALL of the zoo’s conservation projects win when our guests care about conservation.  Thank you to all who voted at the Kids4Nature kiosk in 2015 to show your support of wild animals and wild places.


2015 Zoo Attendance Breaks All Records

Adorable baby animals, new exhibits, and a birthday celebration helped the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo set a new attendance record in 2015.

A total of 618,498 people visited the zoo in 2015, exceeding the previous attendance record of 614,666, set in 2009 when the African Journey exhibit first opened.

This figure includes 590,649 guests who visited during the regular zoo season of April 25-October 11, and 27,849 guests who attended the Wild Zoo Halloween in 2015.

The zoo celebrated its 50th birthday in 2015 and welcomed many baby animals, including a reticulated giraffe and an endangered Sumatran orangutan.  Phase 2 of the $7 million Australian Adventure renovation project opened, featuring tropical fish and sharks in The Reef, and touchable stingrays at Stingray Bay.

Also in 2015, the zoo was named the 7th Best Zoo in the United States and the 20th Best Zoo in the World by TripAdvisor, with rankings based on customer reviews.

“We thank our entire community for your support during this record-breaking season,” said Zoo Director Jim Anderson. “I’m proud of our staff for serving over 600,000 guests as we work to fulfill our mission of connecting people with animals.”

The zoo is operated by the non-profit Fort Wayne Zoological Society and receives no tax funding for operations. Ticket sales, membership sales, concessions, other earned revenue, donations, and sponsorships comprise the zoo’s operating budget.

The zoo is the largest tourist attraction in northeast Indiana. About one in five zoo visitors comes from outside of Indiana.  Forty percent of zoo guests are from Allen County.  For more than 90% of out-of-town zoo guests surveyed, the zoo was their main reason for travelling to Fort Wayne.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

# # #

About the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:  The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s mission is to connect kids and animals, strengthen families, and inspire people to care.  The zoo is northeast Indiana’s largest tourist attraction, hosting more than 600,000 guests annually.  The zoo received the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Award, was named the #7 Zoo in the United States and the #20 zoo in the world by TripAdvisor, was voted Indiana’s #1 “Gotta-Do Summer Attraction,” and is consistently named one of the nation’s Top Ten Zoos for Kids by national media outlets.

The zoo is a conservation leader, contributing more than $80,000 annually to local, regional, and international efforts to protect wild animals and habitats, and participating in cooperative management programs for 91 endangered species and taxa. The zoo was named Northeast Indiana’s Sustainable Business of the Year in 2014.

As a self-supporting facility, the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo receives no tax dollars for operations. The zoo’s operations are funded entirely by earned revenue and donations.

The zoo is closed for the season and will reopen April 26, 2016.

3411 Sherman Boulevard   Fort Wayne, IN 46808   P: 260-427-6800   F: 260-427-6820



otter pumpkin

Animals Go Wild For Pumpkins

Tigers gotta gnaw, otters gotta play, and penguins – well, they’re just penguins!  Zoo critters showed off their animal instincts at the annual Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp as part of last week’s Wild Zoo Halloween festivities.

The award for most action-packed pumpkin encounter went to tigers Indah and Bugara, who attacked their pumpkins at full pounce, then batted them around like rubber toys.  The lemurs practically climbed inside their treat-laden pumpkins.  Some animals, like the sea lions, were more interested in the candy-bag-toting, costumed kids than their pumpkins. Once zoo keepers took the lid off a bamboo-stuffed pumpkin, the red pandas finally figured out that pumpkins aren’t so bad after all.  The penguins, however, were completely indifferent to their smiling jack-o-lantern.

Why did we give pumpkins to zoo animals?  Watching the animals nibble, gnaw, gnarl, play, and sometimes devour their pumpkins is a treat for guests, and provides valuable enrichment for the animals. Enrichment stimulates the animals’ natural behaviors and offers physical and mental challenges.

Click on the photos to find out what the animals did with their pumpkins:


fort wayne zoo

Wild Zoo Halloween Opens Friday, October 16

The event offers a different theme each day.

This weekend’s theme days at the Wild Zoo Halloween presented by Star Financial Bank include:

Friday, October 16 PLUMPkin Day

Guess the weight of the Giant Pumpkin. You could win a prize!

Saturday, October 17 Princess Day

Meet Icey Queen & Princess Sophy (Australian Adventure Plaza),

Cinderella & Fairy Princess (African Journey Pavilions) from 1-3 PM

Sunday, October 18 Mascot Day

Meet Icy (Komets), Johnny (Tin Caps), Johnny Cougar (University of St Francis), Spotz (Fort Wayne Fire Dept.), Don the Mastodon (IPFW), Sparky the Fire Dog (Jonesboro Fire Dept.), Bill the Lion, Admiral Andy (Three Rivers Festival), and Norm (Huntington University) from 2-4 pm in the Australian Adventure Plaza.  Appearance times vary for each mascot.

Click here for a list of all theme days.

Admission is $5 for all ages; admission with treats is $9 for all ages. Zoo Members receive $2 off admission. Babies age 1 and under are admitted free but are charged $4 if they receive treats. Additional fees are charged for the Z.O.&O. Railroad, Endangered Species Carousel, pony ride, and bracelet-making. Food is available for purchase.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

Thanks to these generous sponsors for their support: Star Financial Bank (Presenting Sponsor), Lutheran Health Network, Steel Dynamics, Inc, Sweetwater, BAE Systems, 3 Rivers Credit Union, Mainstay Solutions, NIPSCO, Bob Evans, Lee’s Famous Recipe, Granite City Food & Brewery, McDonald’s, and Ellison Bakery.

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Wild Zoo Halloween Preview

Wild Zoo Halloween starts next week, and we’re getting the zoo ready!  Now arriving:halloween fort wayne

  • 2 dump trucks filled with pumpkins…including the “PLUMPkin”!
  • 6 truckloads of cornstalks
  • 450 straw bales
  • 12,000 mini pumpkins for the Pumpkin Patch
  • more than 200,000 pieces of candy
  • more than 11,000 zombie teeth whistles

Now in its 37th year, this “merry-not-scary” event is fun for the whole family!  Here’s what you can do at Wild Zoo Halloween 2015:

Trick or treat for candy
Navigate a mini maze
Pick a pumpkin in our Pumpkin Patch
Hear a joke from Lil’ Bill
Enjoy tons of kid-friendly activities
See zoo animals
Meet Broomhilda the Witch

DAILY ACTIVITIES sea lion fort wayne zoo

2:30 Live Animal Show

3:00 Sea Lion Show

3:30 Meet the Lion Mascot

Theme Days:

Friday, October 16  PLUMPkin Day

Guess the weight of the Giant Pumpkin

Saturday, October 17  Princess Day

Meet Icey Queen & Princess Sophy (Australian Adventure Plaza),

Cinderella & Fairy Princess (African Journey Pavilions) from 1-3 PM

Sunday, October 18  Mascot Day

Meet Icy (Komets), Johnny (Tin Caps), Johnny Cougar (University of St Francis), Spotz (Fort Wayne Fire Dept.), Don the Mastodon (IPFW), Sparky the Fire Dog (Jonesboro Fire Dept.), Bill the Lion, Admiral Andy (Three Rivers Festival), and Norm (Huntington University) from 2-4 pm in the Australian Adventure Plaza.  Appearance times vary for each mascot.

Thursday, October 22  Free Carousel Rides all day!

Friday, October 23  Pumpkin Stomp & Chomp

Animals get pumpkin treats – 12:45 Orangutan; 1:00 Penguin; 1:15 Tiger; 1:30 Otter; 2:00 Red Panda, 2:30 Lynx; 3:00 Sea Lion; 3:30 Wallaby; 4:00 Lemur

Saturday, October 24  Hero Day

Meet representatives from the Fort Wayne Fire Department, Fort Wayne Police Department, 122nd Fighter Wing, and United States Marine Corps 1-3 pm at the African Journey Pavilions and Australian Adventure Plaza

Sunday, October 25  Star Wars Day

Meet Star Wars characters from 2-4 pm on the Australian Adventure Plaza

Thursday, October 29 Free Carousel Rides all day! 

Friday, October 30  Pumpkin Decorating Workshop
Design your own special pumpkin to take home.  12-5 pm at Little Poof

Saturday, October 31  Cans for Conservation

Bring an empty, clean aluminum can to recycle at the main entrance and get one free ride ticket.  Limit one free ride ticket per person.

 halloween fort wayne zooBack again in 2015:  The Wild Zoo Halloween photo contest!  Click here for official rules.

Dates, Times, Prices:

October 16-18, 22-25, 29-31
12:00-6:00PM, with last admission at 5:00PM
Admission (all ages*) $5
Admission with Treats (all ages*) $9
Zoo Members get $2 off per person every day
*Babies age 1 and younger receive free admission; babies receiving treats are charged $4. 

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halloween fort wayne


NKOTB (New Kids On The Beach)

The zoo’s penguin exhibit is home to four new black-footed penguins!  The three males and one female are named Ollie, Cricket, Roman, and Tapanga.  They arrived earlier this summer with a breeding recommendation from the  Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Does that mean there’s a penguin chick on the way?

“Not yet,” states zoo keeper Sarah Cox, who cares for the penguins.  “The new males are still young and it may be another year before they’re ready to breed.”

Guests can identify three younger male penguins from the older members of the flock by their markings.  Juvenile black-footed penguins have all-black feathers on their faces and lack a black chest stripe.  They won’t get their adult markings until they molt.

The juvenile males are all one year old.  Tapanga is two years old and has already molted, so she has white facial markings like the other adults.

During the annual molting season, a penguin’s old feathers fall out and are replaced by new feathers, a process that takes several weeks and leaves the penguin with temporary bald spots.  Zoo keeper Britni Plummer explains, “Penguins go through changes in behavior and appearance when they molt.  They gain weight, don’t swim as much, and their whole body looks different.”  Plummer says that guests sometimes express concern about the molting penguins. “We’ve had guests ask if our penguins are sick when they’re molting, because the animals look so different.  They’re not sick, it’s just a normal part of their life cycle.”

When Ollie, Cricket, and Roman are mature enough to breed, one of them is likely to pair up with Tapanga.  Once Tapanga has chosen her beau the other suitors will have to look for a new partner.  Penguins pair for life.

Click on the photos to enlarge:

sheep|fort wayne zoo

Mother and Son Makeovers

Roxanne and Jerry (the mother-son sheep duo at the Indiana Family Farm) are sporting new looks this month.  Each is about five pounds lighter and probably feeling much cooler after their routine shearing on August 28.

Shearing is a twice-yearly event at the zoo and requires two zoo keepers.  This time around, keepers Heather Schuh and Laura Sievers did the honors.

This video shows the shearing process:

The wool is donated to local artisans who spin it into yarn.

Click to enlarge Roxanne’s and Jerry’s before-and-after photos:


bee on flower

2, 4, 6, 8, We Can Help Them Pollinate!

Why are we cheering for pollinators?  Because their work is important to our environment! Pollination is an essential step in the life cycle of many flowering and cone-bearing plants (not just the kinds that look pretty, the kinds we eat as well).

Here are some of the things the zoo is doing to help the pollinators (bees, butterflies, birds, and more) that help to sustain our food chain:

Pollinator Gardens

The proper term for the pollinator gardens at the zoo is “Monarch Waystations,” and we have two of them.  One is located at the Indiana Family Farm and the other is on the hill that runs parallel to the Sky Safari ride in the African Journey.  Gardens like these can look a little rough in their early years, but once established they bear flowers yearly and require minimal upkeep.

Zoo keeper Dave Messmann is part of a team of zoo staff and volunteers working to expand the Monarch Waystations and keep them flourishing.  Messman offers some suggestions regarding pollinator-friendly plants, “There are many species of native plants you could put in a pollinator garden.  Some of the plants we have at the Indiana Family Farm are goldenrod, milkweed, and bee balm.  They’re all different colors.”

Messmann explains that a healthy garden is one that can sustain various forms of life, “If you look close you can see a little ecosystem develop.  Aphids live on the plants, insects eat the aphids.  Sometimes the inside of the stem is a place where insects can develop.  The garden becomes self-sustainable.”

And a sustainable garden is the kind of place where monarch butterflies, bees, and other pollinators flourish.  Here are photos of some of the plants in the zoo’s Monarch Waystations.  Click on the photos to enlarge, and consider including some pollinator-friendly plants in your next gardening project:

Bee Keeping

There’s a beehive at the zoo, and it’s a unique one.  Our hive has clear sides, so guests can have a look inside at the bees’ hard work.  Bees pollinate a variety of plants, including many of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts we eat.  The next time you eat apples, broccoli, or almonds, thank a bee!  If you’d like to learn more about bee keeping, visit the American Beekeeping Federation website.  Click on the photos to enlarge:


In the summer of 2015, the zoo devoted an entire day to pollinator education at our What’s The Buzz event.  Zoo guests learned about the importance of pollinators like bees and butterflies.  Kids participated in several event stations, and even built “beehives” from re-used materials to learn how bees work together.  Education helps us understand pollinators and the critical role they play in the food chain.  We’re all in this together!